The Olympic Torch

Yesterday the Olympic torch relay passed through Crowborough, East Sussex. Indeed, it travelled right past my front door. As I think about this event I find that I have mixed feelings. On one hand it seemed to involve a build-up of excitement for something that essentially was over in the space of 2 minutes. On the other, I recognise it as something symbolic as the population came out in force to celebrate the UK having managed to win the Olympic bid. And now, that same population holds its breath waiting for this worldwide sporting event to begin. The relay certainly engendered a sense of national pride and identity. Two hours later however, our ordinary road looked empty compared to the expectant crowds of earlier – it was as if nothing had happened.

Whilst interested in how such events operate at a national and group level – as a psychotherapist, my focus was more concerned with how such events operate at an individual level. Earlier in the day I sat with my nearly 3 year old granddaughter, talking about what we were going to do that day. I heard myself saying “today you are going to see something that you probably won’t see again in your lifetime”.  She looked at me as if I was speaking gibberish and whilst I recognise that she is in the process of moving on from “infantile amnesia”, I also have to acknowledge that this clearly made no sense to her at all. This led me to wonder about the purpose of my statement.

On reflection, I wanted to impress on her that this was a significant event in her lifetime. If we stop and think about our lives we recognise that we all have such events. They may include, the queen’s coronation, when men first landed on the moon, when England won the football (or rugby) world cup, the death of prominent public figures such as JFK or Lady Di or the bombing of the Twin Towers. Whatever these events are, they act as markers in the sequence of our lives. They provide us with a point in time where we think about who we were with, what we were doing, and where we were. They provide us with a series of recollections around which we structure the more everyday occurrences in our existence.

As a psychotherapist I can recognise the value of such events, in terms of providing a sense of coherence and continuity to our life stories. We need such a story or narrative, to provide us with a sense of who we are and where we fit in our lives. Too loose or rigid a story is likely to create problems for us as we travel through this adventure called life. Perhaps in the case of my granddaughter I was a little premature in seeking to facilitate her story writing abilities. Oh well there is always next week!

Written By: Mark Head


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